A story of a fulfilled dream
On March 24th, 1997, the Madonna dell’Uliveto Association was established with the objective of offering aid and hospitality to twelve oncological patients and their families. The Reggio Emilia Diocese, with the support of the Montericco of Albinea Parish, granted the use of Santa Maria dell’Oliveto buildings for the following 25 years. Since then we have started a program of fund-raising for the realization of the project.
It was made possible thanks to the support of both citizens and institutions and by the planning, with the help of Reggio Emilia A.U.S.L. of an innovative cultural model that involves a group of General Medical Practitioners for the Hospice management.
Society today seems to reserve the idea of the “mystery of life” exclusively to birth. Death is not given space, dignity or value, it is only considered the denial of good. Since death cannot be avoided, we simply refuse to talk about it, hoping that the torment and fear of death will disappear in the back of our minds.
However, people in proximity of death have the right to stay with their family up to the end of their life, as suffering for separation, fear of dying and regret for things left undone are all less painful if family and friends can comfort them. Rediscovering the human aspect of death and finding dignity in it have been our goal. Its achievement was the creation of this comforting space for care and treatment of pain and suffering, in order to save patients and their families from loneliness and abandon.
The original group of professionals who started the House came from different areas but had common sensitivity, passion and motivation for this project ; it included: Father Giuseppe Bassissi, Michela Dall’Aglio, Pierantonio Magnani, Luigi Maramotti, Annamaria Marzi, Gabriella Schiatti, Mauro Severi, Maria Grazia Solimè, Antonio Zini. The research for the “right” place took some years owing to the particular needs required. The location was found in the architectural compound of Madonna of Uliveto, in Montericco of Albinea. The striking beauty, the view of the hills and the proximity to the city made this place perfect for a Hospice project which offers not only health assistance, but also an “active and overall treatment” that meets the psycho-social, spiritual and physically complex needs of the ill and support to families.
On March 24th, 1997, the Reggio Emilia Diocese along with the Montericco of Albinea Parish , granted the new-born Madonna dell’Uliveto Association the free use of the buildings that would later become the Hospice for the following 25 years. The objective became restructuring the building according to its new purpose: aid and hospitality for twelve oncological patients and their families.
Since then fund-raising has started. The combination of public and private funds made this project ,based on the offer of free assistance, possible. The Madonna dell’Uliveto non-profit cooperative signed an agreement with the A.U.S.L. of Reggio Emilia for the management of the House on March 20th, 1998. Moreover Anna Zannoni and Gilda Rapaggi donated their life savings (Anna gave ₤308.000.000 and Gilda ₤150.000.000 plus several pieces of antique furniture) as a jump-start for this project. Anna was an AVO volunteer, Gilda was a science teacher in a local secondary school. The Hospice project was born from their experience and generosity: they were ill and hoped other people could receive what they had longed for.
Before practically starting the restoration Anna Maria Marzi and Maria Grazia Solimè, who would be in charge of the House, visited many Hospices in Italy (Milan, Brescia, Aviano) and Canada (Toronto). In Italy the tradition of Hospice assistance dates back to thirty years and offers interesting experience both for hospital and self-managed hospices such as Casa Madonna dell’Uliveto.
On February 11th 1999, in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, in the presence of the Bishop of Reggio Emilia, the official document for restoration was signed and the project presented to citizens .
Several initiatives allowed us to introduce the Casa Madonna dell’Uliveto project to the town of Reggio Emilia. On March 20th, 1998, Maria Carla Sidoli generously hosted the Meeting “Hospice: a practical answer to oncological patients’ needs. An assistance residence for difficult moments” at Posta Hotel. On that occasion, the project was introduced and explained in all its aspects to the public. A video by Jeris Fochi of Mediavision Reggio Emilia, in partnership with Doctor Pierantonio Magnani, showed what words could not describe: what anguish and pain are in a disease, how palliative treatments are fundamental to alleviate suffering and how a Hospice aspires to be a space for integrated assistance to oncological patients and their families. Since September 1999, the video has been an important means for publicizing the Hospice project on many occasions, from Parish meetings to citizens’ circles. Everyone responded generously with interest and we can really say this project has become a community project, appreciated and supported in many ways.
On December 7th, 2000 an official event was organized in order to explain the Hospice service to the town, involving institution representatives in the convention hall of the Chamber of Commerce. On December 8th, 2000 the Casa Madonna dell’Uliveto was officially inaugurated. On March 7th, 2001 the Minister of Health Umberto Veronesi wrote the following words in the Visitors’ Book after a visit to the Hospice: “A lot of admiration for a project that marks a substantial progress in civilization”. On March 19th, 2001 the Albinea district allowed the House to start its activity thanks to the positive response of the commission for the evaluation of the technical, sanitary and organization requirements as from the Residential Centre of Palliative Treatments Hospice Act. On March 20th the first guest to the Hospice, Giulia, was admitted; she was given stability of the disease and discharged on April 12th.
In March 2001 an agreement with the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia was signed for training nursing students . The first theses focused on Palliative Treatments and the Hospice.
Since December 2001 there has been the tradition of celebrating Christmas with two evangelical talks about the positive vision of life held by Father Franco Mosconi, a Camaldoli monk from the Saint George’s hermitage in Bardolino. The event involves family members of patients, friends, benefactors and supporters of the Hospice. Starting October 2002, in collaboration with the Institute of Music and Liturgy of Reggio Emilia, a programme of concerts titled “Phos Hilaròn” (Joyful Light) is held every year- Phos Hilaròn are the initial words of an ancient Greek hymn which was sung at sunset, when lamps were lit in the evening. Light can be on also in the evening of life; that’s why the House tries to be a light for those who for different reasons look for a place where the light of life is always on, a light of art, poetry and culture. In February 2004, hoping to promote the culture of life, the Madonna dell’Uliveto Foundation began supporting Hope Magazine, an instrument to reflect on the fundamental questions and the deep values of everyday life: each special issue of Hope stimulates thinking as an indispensable means for a responsible growth of every human being.